Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/customer/www/martinwilloughbyjr.com/public_html/wp-content/themes/brooklyn/inc/ut-custom-css.php on line 1667


I must have looked lost as I was meandering down the food aisle at a Publix Super Market.? As I was unsuccessfully trying to pick up a few items off my ?honey do? list from the grocery store, I heard the words from a friendly Publix employee, ?Can I help you find something??? I was a little caught off guard because I couldn?t remember the last time I was asked in a grocery store if I needed some help with my shopping.? I was prepared for some directions on where I could find the missing item; but instead, the employee insisted on retrieving the product for me while I continued my shopping.? WOW!? I was blown away.? As a business coach and consultant, I take note of great service.?? I was also intrigued.? What kind of organization was this with employees who were so passionate about customer service?? As I was in the checkout line, I shared my positive experience with the checkout clerk (who was also very friendly).? I asked to speak to the manager of the store so I could report this excellent customer service.

I learned a lot in my brief exchange with the store manager.? This young man shared with me that this was normal behavior for their employees.? I learned that he had been with the company for over twenty years and started as a part time employee in high school bagging groceries.? As I pressed in for the secret sauce to the great service, he pointed my attention to their secret – THE CULTURE!? He shared with me how important the company?s culture is and how much attention they pay to cultivating and reinforcing it throughout the organization.? The focus on culture has paid off for Lakeland, Florida based Publix. It is the largest and fastest growing employee owned super market in the country.? With over $27 billion in sales, 1,056 stores, and 157,000 employees, Publix is ranked 106 on the Fortune 500.? What caught my attention though was that the company had been on FORTUNE magazine?s ?100 Best Companies to Work For” for over 16 years.

Publix?s emphasis on its culture dates back to 1930 and the company?s founder George Jenkins. Jenkins held himself to the high standards he expected of others and created a culture of service ?not only to the customer who came into the store to shop, but to every associate as a customer of another associate.? Jenkins and other leaders believed that ?people want to help, and, if given the resources to do so will provide extraordinary service.??? One of the ways they create such loyalty is by promoting from within.? The current CEO and President each started out in Publix as front-service clerks over 25 years ago.? I also took note that, the average tenure at Publix for store managers is 25.1 years, retail hourly workers average about 5.1 years, and hourly support workers average about 9.1 years.

As I have studied companies like Publix, I have become convinced that building a great culture is absolutely one of the keys to building a great company.? It is particularly important for any company that wants to grow and expand with people.? For some, talk about culture may sound ?soft? or of secondary importance.? These type naysayers may believe that having a great culture is a ?nice to have? versus a ?must have.?? Very few companies can afford to ignore their company culture.? If your company involves people interacting with people, then you should be paying attention to your culture.

?For definitional purposes, I describe a company?s culture as the shared values and practices of the people in the organization.? These are the common beliefs and habits of the organization.? Here is the critical part ? your employees represent YOUR BRAND.? They are the living, breathing implementers day to day of what your company stands for.? In other words, they are the front line in creating your brand in the marketplace.? Companies can spend millions on positive advertising but one bad interaction with a representative can destroy the customer?s feelings about the company.

I was attending a conference at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans recently, and as I was leaving a member of the housekeeping staff stopped me on my way to the elevator and wanted to make sure I had enjoyed a great stay at the hotel and wished me safe travels on my journey home.? She did not have to do that.? It was probably not part of her job description.?? However, with a smile and genuine sincerity she made a point to wish me well on my way.? I have shared with dozens of people about this simple exchange and how that positively reflects on the brand of The Ritz Carlton.

Gregg Lederman, founder of Brand!ntegrity and author of the book entitled Engaged! Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life, travels the country helping companies realize the value of culture and how important it is in developing their brands.? He notes, ?Branding is not part of the business, it is the business. Every interaction with an employee, with a coworker or a customer has the power to strengthen or hinder the brand image of your company.?? Lederman emphasizes that branding is about experiences and not logos and taglines. ?He teaches companies that the little things that they do daily are more important than the big things they may say about themselves.? I believe and share with my clients that every day their doors are open is ?Game Day,? and they should treat it with the opportunity for greatness.? Unfortunately, for too many companies it becomes like ?Groundhog Day,? and mediocrity can creep in.

I recently discovered Lederman?s company and work, and I have been impressed.? In addition to his thought leadership on this subject, his company has come up with something truly unique in my opinion.? They have created a proprietary software system that actually allows companies to better manage their brand by tracking and measuring customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and financial results. What they have accomplished is the linking together of these critical aspects of the business in a quantifiable way that encourages the right behaviors.? This use of metrics and creative ways to reinforce positive behaviors strengthens and builds the culture, and it is all tied back to the company?s profitability.?? I believe in the future we will see more and more organizations focused on building powerful brands, and I think we should all start to consider what is our R.O.C. ? Return on Culture. ?


I admit that I?m a nervous online shopper.??

Several years ago, a credit card number of mine was ?stolen? online, and I had to sort through quite a mess to clean it up. Since then, I?ve been careful about doing business on the web.?? If you?ve ever shopped online, you?ve probably noticed the checkmark logo from VeriSign that appears on web commerce sites utilizing their SSL encryptions services.

A recent case study demonstrated just how powerful this little logo can be. With more than 500,000 online and local stores responsible for more than 400 million products sold, TheFind is the world’s largest online shopping center. This virtual shopping mall has more than 17 million unique monthly shoppers. TheFind?s analysis showed that companies displaying the VeriSign seal received 18.5% more click-throughs than similar companies that did not display the VeriSign seal. Interestingly, Symantec, a software company known for its security products, and VeriSign recently announced a deal for Symantec to purchase VeriSign’s identity and authentication business, which includes SSL Certificate and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) services, for $1.28 billion in cash. One of the key drivers in this transaction is the brand recognition of the VeriSign seal being acquired by Symantec.

What does that VeriSign seal really seal stand for? Trust! The web commerce sites using the VeriSign seal benefit from consumers like me, who trust that if I provide my credit card information, then I don?t have to worry about someone going on a spending spree of plasma TVs in a third-world country on my dime. This is just one example of the power of trust in business.

Upon reflection, you see how truly important trust is, both in the business world and life in general. If I don?t trust my wife, then I will make our lives miserable by always wondering what she?s doing.? If I don?t trust my employees, then I will micro-manage their efforts and keep them in a state of dependence and little self-confidence. If my business partners and I don?t trust each other, then we?ll waste valuable time and resources looking over our shoulders.? If my clients don?t trust me, then they won?t be willing to pay me for my services.

In leadership, trust is critical.? How inspired are you to follow someone you can?t trust? Conversely, when we trust someone, we?ll go to great lengths to sacrifice personally to support the cause of the leader.? Too often, we betray our trust through self-serving behavior.? Trust, like friendship, is something you have to be willing to give if you want to receive.? As George MacDonald noted, ?To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.?

While trust has always been important in business, I believe that it?s increasingly becoming paramount to success in business. Jim Burke, former CEO of Johnson & Johnson noted, ?You can?t have success without trust.??? Similarly, Robert Eckert, former CEO of Mattel, stated, ?As you go to work, your top responsibility should be to build trust.? There are confluences of factors that have increased the need for trust today in business.? First, we have a more dispersed workforce. Instead of rule-driven factories, we work in an increasingly virtual world.? Many employees work from home today and manage flex time schedules.? As managers, it?s more difficult to micro-manage employees that are 1,000 miles away.? More than ever, companies today have to center their corporate culture on shared values and trust.

We also live in a transparent world.? Companies used to be able to keep secrets.? Today, anyone with a camera phone or a computer can be a whistleblower.? Any customer with a problem can litter blogosphere with negative things about a company.? As Dov Seidman pointed out in his book, How, today it?s more important how companies operate than what they do.? His point is that the greatest strength of a company today is its trustworthiness.? In the wake of the financial collapse, financial institutions are having to go to great lengths to restore the trust with customers.

If, as leadership guru Warren G. Bennis asserted, ?trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work,? then perhaps we should start to consider how to increase our trust individually and organizationally. While trust can be a nebulous concept, it essentially means that I have confidence in you, and I?m willing to put myself at risk to ?do business? with you.

Even though one can employ manipulative tactics to gain another?s trust, I believe we?re much better served by truly becoming trustworthy people. This means we need to act with integrity.? We can?t be saying one thing and acting out another.? We need to be reliable.? When we make promises, big or small, people need to be able to count on us.? We have to be capable. This means that we have to actually be able to deliver on what we say we can do.? Capable people are lifetime learners who are always striving to get better.? We also have to be ?others focused.??? When we are simply out for No. 1, it shows through.? We genuinely have to increase our ability to know and understand the people we work with and desire to serve.

As we hopefully continue to come out of this financial malaise, we all have a level of fear and uncertainty.? As businesspeople, now is the time to truly help others work through their uncertainties and be known as a trusted resource. Becoming trustworthy is a noble journey with substantial long-term dividends. It?s certainly not an easy path, and we?ll all stumble along the way.? However, the bilateral transaction of trust is essential to success in life and business, so hopefully we?ll encourage one another on this journey and learn to trust each other more.

Creative design from the South

Get in touch with us!